Timmy T’s Top 10 of 2017

3 Feb

Better late than never, our resident critic serves up his usual brilliant top 10 list, with plenty of extras for y’all!



Top 10 Albums

Ke$ha – Rainbow

Best Song: “Bastards”

  • From the get-go, you’re asking yourself, “Is this Ke$ha”? And, then you go, “This is freaking really good.” It’s crazy the range she delivers on this and the versatility. An album I think I will like for many years to come. Also, her use of the Dap Kings’ horns on the “Woman” track is a nod to another great artist (also on this list), and just shows she’s delivered a huge payload by going outside of her (probable) comfort zone. Well done, Ke$ha. Well done, indeed.

The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful

Best Song: “Rut”

  • Man, oh man. When The Killers are ready to do something cerebrally cutting edge, you get some wildly different stuff. Good thing for them, it’s pretty darn great.

Ryan Adams – Prisoner

Best Song: “Shiver and Shake”

  • Okay, so I admit, he makes a lot of my lists. But, when you do great stuff, you have some great stuff. The guy can write as many great songs as if he’s producing Halloween (pun partially intended, for those who know his catalog ;)) candy in a candy factory.

The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

Best Song: “Pain”

  • Have to allow iTunes’ description of the album to stand here, which refers to War on Drugs as a combo reproduction of Dylan, Springsteen and Petty. After losing Petty, it’s pretty tough to avoid allowing this album to take a hold of you. It’s some trippy and psychedelic stuff in a rock n’ roll throwback kind of way.

HAIM – Something To Tell You

Best Song: “Want You Back”

  • Wilson Phillips. Reincarnated. And more than two songs that are good.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Soul of a Woman

Best Song: “Come and Be a Winner”

  • They keep getting better, and better, and better. Every time I’m listening to them, I feel like I’m caught in a time warp with the best Motown musicians there ever were. But, their albums were produced like, yesterday!

Randy Newman – Dark Matter

Best Song: “Brothers”

  • If the soundtrack to Toy Story went a little darker, you’d get this. So, it’s a bit of a disconnect from both what and how you may be used to hearing Randy Newman sing, but he really delivers. It’s easy listening with some heavy topics.

Jack Johnson – All the Light Above It Too

Best Song: “My Mind Is For Sale”

  • So far, not one bad album. And counting. Formulaic? Perhaps. But when you’re the new and improved James Taylor, why try anything different? One of the few cases in music where I would recommend, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So many artists try to do something different, and the next best thing they’ve ever done. And, they don’t. So, we’ve got Jack being Jack here, and it’s just all kinds of fine with me.

Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

Best Song: Fortress

  • Geez! Pretty blown away by this album. It would not be for everyone, and it even pushes me outside of my easy listening comfort zone quite a bit, but it’s heavy on a new kind of rock, that I think will preserve the possibility that rock n’ roll is here to stay, and will eventually, be back someday in a big, big way!

Diana Krall – Turn Up the Quiet

Best Song:  “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)”

  • A truly great Canadian jazz treasure. There’s hardly ever an album I don’t like. And, this is just another one of those you can play from start-to-finish when you need to tune out, but turn up and relax.

Best Songs Not in the Top 10 Albums:

U2 – “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way

  • Can’t say a lot of great things about the album, but a great song is a great song, album aside.

U2 – “You’re the Best Thing About Me” (Acoustic Version)

  • Very important you get the acoustic version. I accidentally purchased this first, before the album and thought, “I should have gotten the deluxe version; it’s probably on it.” Then, I realized, U2 isn’t smart enough these days to put the better version of this track on its album, even as a bonus track, and even if it could have elevated the album. That’s just the way they are these days.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “If We Were Vampires

  • An excellent melancholy track.

Chris Stapleton – “Second One to Know

  • Wow! Great alt-country-rock tune! Kid Rock is jealous and Ryan Adams is trying to remake it into something depressing. Just kidding (maybe?).

Jens Lekman – “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?

  • Just a fun steel drummin’ kind of time!

Lorde – “Green Light

  • A great track, a great album. She’s got infinite potential & just starting out! Had to acknowledge it somehow!

Foo Fighters – “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)

  • I always prefer the Foo on the quieter & more contemplative side, which is hard to come by on most albums.

Kid Rock – “Raining Whiskey

  • The Kid at his alt-country-rockin’ best!

Chris Stapleton – “Without Your Love

  • Total opposite sound from “Second One to Know”. A Garth Brooks “Thunder Rolls” type of feel.

Arcade Fire – “Creature Comfort

  • Not sure if I like the lyrics more or the rhythm more, but it all works in a weird sort of sounding way. Didn’t like the album, but love this track.

Honourable Mention (Album & Song):

Kelela – Take Me Apart

Best Song: “LMK”

  • A guilty R&B-poppy pleasure. What else can I say? Will give Beyonce and Rhianna a run for their money pretty right quick.
That’s all folks! Thanks for listening!



Chris Stapleton: The Duets

29 Jan

Here at the Unsung, we’ve always had a soft spot for outlaw country. If Johnny, Waylon and Willie are patron saints, then Sturgill and Stapleton must be the new prophets. This blistering rendition of ‘Midnight Train to Memphis’ from this SNL this past Saturday just scorches.

And maybe the only thing better than that double team of southern whoop-ass is Stapleton’s burgeoning bromance with popgod Justin Timberlake. This goes back awhile, to their now absolute classic live collaboration ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ back in 2015:

By Justin’s own admission, he has a soft spot for the Stapletons (and who can blame him, everything Chris touches turns to country gold) and now that JT has decided to embrace  his own Nashville by way of Montana rustic roots *ahem* on new album Man of the Woods, we can enjoy this spine tingler:

Sounds like we have 3 new Highwaymen ready to form a new posse….

The Unsung: Latest and Greatest

26 Jan

Hey Unsungers (yes, congratulations, you are now a noun, a Collective, a Hive, a Movement, a Way of Life):

Long time no speak. I’ve been busy just like i’m sure you have been. Life moves like a jet these days, past your field of view and gone. I’m now a father and enjoying everything that comes with it. In those fleeting moments, when i get a chance to think about music, i think about songs that evoke memories of youth, when life was free and easy.  Or I think about what songs my son should hear in his early days (admittedly this is an overthink, but if all the good willing western parents of the world can arrange for their newborns to fill their bellys with organic sugar free purees, shouldn’t they conspire to have the best of music for their souls? More on that in another post). Songs are always gateways to feelings for me – the happy, the sad, the nostalgic, the introspective. More than ever, i seek out songs to take me to a certain place when i have a minute to escape.

So we keep on moving forward. There are still soundtracks to our lives, songs that still grab hold. Here are my favorites at the moment and a few thoughts, all captured in a Latest and Greatest© playlist on spotify 

Michael Kiwanuka “Love and Hate” and “May This Be Love” The more I listen to Michael, the more i believe he is the true talent of our age. His album is so….deep. Get into him, please. 

Bahamas “Way With Words” A way with words is so important. A welcome return to the chillest man in rock. 

House of Pain “Top O’ the Morning to Ya” Retro throwback. My cousin Konrad and i use to roll around the mean streets of Calgary listening to white boy rap on our way to the courts to hoop it up. Yeah it doesn’t work with the rest of this playlist but…..Go Celtics.

The Vaccines “I Can’t Quit” I loved the first Vaccines album, ‘What Did You Expect From the Vaccines’. It was the perfect mix of the Strokes, stories about models, British classicism, and west coast cool. They have largely sucked since then, but this song seems like a return to form…

Ryan Adams “Where Will You Run” – A b-side to the excellent Prisoner. Here at Unsung, we’ve been long time fans of Ryan and he can do no wrong. Especially when he is doing his best Nirvana meets 80s power pop. When he starts yelping at 2:12, i believe in rock again.

Greta Van Fleet – “Black Smoke Rising” and “Highway Tune” shameless Led Zep guitar noodling and aping? Robert Plant howling? An album cover with allusions to mythical dark forest fires that summon the fellowship in your soul? Check, check and Triple Check. Should you care when it’s such a good rip-off? No. Let’s hope they don’t meet the same fate as Wolfmother.

The Sheepdogs “Nobody” The current Flagbearers of Canadian Classic Rock. Long live our shaggy friends. New album out now….this is an album track which i can picture drinking patio pilsners to. 

“Stardust” by Willie Nelson and Harry Connick, Jr. This song is my current earworm. I was a huge Harry Connick fan in the early 90s – i thought he was going to be the second coming of Frank Sinatra, with actual songwriting and instrumentation chops. Then he went and starred in a bad romcom with Sandra Bullock. But before the corruption, he recorded a cover album on his 25th birthday. Just him, a piano, a dark studio, and some of his favorite musicians. His version of Stardust, especially the piano at 3:50, haunts me. In my humble opinion, it is simply the saddest and the most soothing melody, a song about a song about love. And then we have Willie’s version, from the excellent 1978 album of the same name. It resurrected his career and offers a completely different interpretation, warm and fuzzy like only Willie can be. I mean, just check out the album backcover:

Kudos to my record store and whisky drinking sidekick Shaun for encouraging that vinyl purchase. I haven’t regretted one moment of listening to it with a bourbon in hand.

So, all in all, that’s the beauty of Stardust. An absolute classic, almost 100 years old.

The Weavers “Wimoweh” you should immediately recognize this rhythm if you are Lion King fan, a king of the Jungle, or a past guest at my wedding 🙂  The story behind this song is fascinating. This version, by Pete Seeger and the Weavers from the 50s, is considered the evolutionary bridge between the magnificent original, and the big hit The Tokens had in the 60s. (And the version my wife perfected live and in concert, in full marital bliss, in 2015)

Happy Weekend!



3 Oct

(A few words from Unsung Guest Writer Timmy T. Couldn’t have said it better myself. But I will add that our favorite Unsung Petty songs can be found at the bottom of this post. “You belong among the wildflowers…someplace you feel free” – Ed)

Image result for tom petty

You may all be aware of the recent passing of a rock legend. Mr. Tom Petty. After offering a moment of silence whilst downing a gloriously refreshing IPA from a Victoria brewery, I found myself reflecting upon what Tom Petty had meant to us all.

It’s often the smallest things you don’t realize. Tom’s music wasn’t just there. It was often there when we needed it most. That’s why he matters.

Some might say it wasn’t always groundbreaking. But, from using his music in a pivotal scene in Jerry Maguire that many would say pulled the now-classic movie forward at a critical moment (and juxtaposed his music to the Rolling Stones), to doing the whole soundtrack for She’s The One, Mr. Petty was more cinematic than we know. The Lumineers, our most recent torchbearer of folk-rock even pays tribute to the latter soundtrack by offering up their own cover of “Walls” during their last tour. I saw it. And, I went nuts. Because I knew that they knew that I knew. You know!? And, it was safe to say not everyone else did. Only those influenced by Petty and who were paying attention would know.

It may be an overused term, one even popularized by an actual band, but he was a soundtrack to our lives in ways we probably don’t even fully comprehend. An influence of catchy yet offbeat rhythms and lyrics that few can appreciate when failing to listen intentionally. Tom Petty captured hearts and minds and wasn’t afraid to push the envelope as most geniuses aren’t.

His contributions to rock n’ roll were infinite from the Travelling Wilburys to the profound lyrics of “The Last DJ” to the seven-plus minutes of one of the best live versions of any song anywhere any time, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”. A true and uncompromised artist  whose presence and musical gifts have fallen nothing short of free.

I am forever learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings. It’s time to move on, however. Time to get goin’. Underneath my feet, the grass is growin’.

Thank you, Tom. From the bottom of our hearts, souls and minds – thank you for everything, forever.

Michael Kiwanuka

21 Apr

The  (Man in the) Band:  Michael Kiwanuka

What’s the story? Back in 2012, I went to go see Alabama Shakes at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland. They were the hyped band of the moment: retro-roots soul-rockers set apart from rest of the crowd, largely due to their lead singer – Brittany Howard, a powerful charisma of Joplin inspired wailing and magnetism. She also was (and is) a black woman fronting a band of white dudes playing guitars, something not often seen and heard. Less heralded, but also on the bill that night, was a young black man named Michael Kiwanuka. I was startled to see him outside the front door of the Ballroom grabbing a smoke while I waited in line to get inside.  No one recognized him; he stood alone and looked very much out of place, and indeed a million miles from his home in the UK. But I remember that he looked so vulnerable and….lonely. So unlike the feeling he exuded in his music – that of a comfortable weekend midday in the sun. Songs like Bones and Home Again are as omnipresent in your local hipster-fied coffee shop as they are in your mother’s gentrified interior design store; most would recognize them or hum along, but I’m guessing doilies to donuts, they couldn’t pick Kiwanuka out of line up. So why do i mention the colour of his skin? The singer himself has struggled with his identity and his audience, and it wasn’t until the 2016 follow up to his brilliant debut album that we got a real sense of the slow burning dissatisfaction inside. Just listen to Black Man In A White World:

Goddamn. When was the last time you heard something with such a relentless groove that actually said something so relevant and resounding? For crying out loud, I’m a white man in a white world and i will never begin to understand, feel, appreciate, sympathize, emphasize the context, but it makes me wish i could. A song like this is triple threat: a declaration, a protest, and a statement of fact. It is brave and vulnerable all at once.

Perhaps out of ignorance or discomfiture, I initially overlooked the album Love & Hate, expecting and perhaps hoping for more of the same softness and soul as his previous work. It wasn’t until I started watching the twisted Big Little Lies (HBO couple drama at its most blatant) that its opening track, Cold Little Heart, another Kiwanuka composition, wove its way into me. Produced by Danger Mouse, the songs on Love & Hate expand the singer’s range and style to become cinematic. Now we get to experience the dark and light, and now i know we’re all be the better for it.

Sounds Like:  Shaft got his heart broken by Society and its Girl

The gateway songs: 

“I’ll Get Along”

“Waiting Around to Die”

“Cold Little Heart”

If You Like These Songs, Check Out:

Goldford “Ray of Sunshine”

Bill Withers “Use Me”

Leon Bridges ‘Coming Home’ album

Isaac Hayes “Walk On By”



Fleet Foxes: The Return

8 Mar

It has been far too long since we’ve had a chance to get lost in the epic, fragile, magic that is the Fleet Foxes. Lead singer Robin Pecknold took a hiatus from the band in 2011 to go back to school, (its unconfirmed, but probably to get a major in Wizardry and a minor in the Art of DragonSmything) but has finally returned from his sojourn. There is no purer voice in folk-rock than Pecknold. Start here and here for a refresher.  The sound of his song on their new track is a welcome respite to these Ides of March. Bring on the Third of May! (New album in June too)

Yes Virginia, There is a Good Christmas Playlist!

16 Dec

Image15New and Improved and Back By Popular Demand!!!

The snow is falling and Christmas season has begun! A few years ago, a similarly obsessed audiophile friend and I wanted to create a Christmas album that could be enjoyed by the young and old, of both sexes. After some spirited debate about what to include and exclude, and the merits of one version of a classic over another, the resulting playlist was a true collaborative effort, which, in the humble opinion of thy narrator, came pretty close to the mark.  The burnt CD has been on high demand since its very limited release to family and friends many years ago…..but now in the spirit of the season i think its only fair our greater UnSung audience gets a chance to listen. Below is the original excerpt from the disc:

The Christmas season is here all over again. In the spirit of giving and receiving, chestnuts and holly, hot totties and misteltoe, and ice and snow, a miracle brighter than the star of Bethelhem shines radiantly upon you – the gift of music. Two giant music labels (founded by two wise men) have come together to release a collection of Christmas songs that will be sure to leave you feeling more festive than the jolly fat man himself. From Sexsmith to Sinatra, the Boss to the Bing, this playlist is the soundtrack to our Christmases past, present and future. It is truly our Christmas wish that you sit down with those nearest and dearest, pour yourself a ‘lil rum and nog, close your eyes, and soak in the musical good tidings of comfort and joy” 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Happy holidays!

Listen to the playlist here on Spotify!


Listen: Cohen’s Sisters of Mercy: one driving, one slow and sweet

8 Dec

Two great Canadian tributes to a Canadian master. “Yes you, who must leave everything you cannot control. It begins with your family, but soon comes ’round to your soul.”

Title: A busy day in the Videosphere, or The Right and Wrong Way to use guitars.

22 Sep

It’s one of those days where i discover a few new songs., which is sadly an occurrence that doesn’t happen often enough these days. I’m trying to come to terms with the new Kings of Leon single “Walls” and whatever the hell soft-rock middle-aged receding hairline one chord homeless man’s Beautiful War falling asleep waiting for something to happen that never does they are trying  to pull, and balancing that against the sheer clarity and honesty of Jack White’s emotional performance on Fallon last night:


And if that ain’t enough, Dawes is getting funky wit it (jury still out on whether they can survive in this newfound realm) :


And a friend just put the name of a band to a song that’s been prowling around my brain like a caged tiger on coca cola for weeks. Don’t you love when that happens? Gawd i miss guitars. Holy F has this got teenage urgency!


The Classics and The Digital Age

29 Jul

This article from the Ringer rightly sums up my feelings on the Digital Music Age. Ever since i lost my Ipod Classic 7 months ago, there has been a hole in my soul. If you have one, keep it secret, keep it safe.